Beyond the Fair: Introducing the Canadian Science Fair Journal
Current estimates are that Canadian children and youth perform 100,000 science fair projects annually, with approximately 500 selected to attend the national fair (Canadian Wide Science Fair - CWSF). Although of indisputable value, the overwhelming majority of these youth only present their projects in poster format to a small audience of parents and judges. Their work is
then inevitably forgotten in the corner of the basement or placed in the garbage bin. Confirming these concerns, a 2017 study by CHEO investigators demonstrated that only 7% of national winners from the CWSF go on to publish or broadly disseminate their work. The consequence of this gap is not only that science fair participants do not receive exposure to scientific writing, but that other Canadian children miss an opportunity to read and learn from these projects (science literacy). Not only this, but it is also widely accepted that scientific research is most meaningful when investigators (young or old) have the opportunity to present their work, receive feedback and then disseminate the knowledge generated. While there are thousands of journals where adults can publish their research, there are none providing Canadian children and youth the same opportunity…until now!
Recognizing the lack of a suitable platform for youth to publish their scientific work, in 2018, the CHEO Research Institute launched the Canadian Science Fair Journal (CSFJ). The CSFJ is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that allows children ages 6-18 to submit their original research – most often portrayed by a science fair project. Following submission, each author receives mentorship from a member of the editorial board (undergraduate and graduate STEM students) who works closely with them to learn about scientific writing and how to produce a publishable manuscript. Our vision for this initiative is to inspire young Canadians to pursue science careers by improving science literacy and increasing accessibility to scientific research. Our mission was to create an open-source science fair journal to promote scientific research in the younger generation by:
Engaging scientifically-minded children and youth,
Transcending barriers related to geography, finances, and resource access,
Fostering scientific collaboration between students and mentors, and
Cultivating understanding of the scientific method and responsible research.
By providing a forum for publication, the CSFJ has the potential to be transformative by expanding the experience beyond the science fair, promoting a greater understanding of the scientific process, facilitating greater dissemination of students’ work, and encouraging networking within the scientific community. Given an initial expectation of 15 submissions and limited funding for promotion/publicity, receiving 50 submissions was a resounding success. Submissions were received from all but 2 provinces/territories; 41% came from students with hometowns of less than 30,000 people; 59% of articles were written by female authors and 13% were authored by Indigenous students. We are excited to report that we recently published and distributed our inaugural issue (Fall 2018). Given the larger than anticipated number of submissions, we now also plan to release winter and spring issues.
We Need Your Help
Our goal is to build on the progress over the past year, including the recent success with the first CSFJ issue. Running a successful, meaningful, innovative science journal for children requires an investment of both time and money. We cannot do this alone and would really benefit from your assistance. Here are ways that you can help:
Visit our website (www.csfjournal.com) and enjoy some incredible student research
Link to the CSFJ on your website, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook
Offer a sponsorship or make a donation (https://www.csfjournal.com/make-a-donation/) to help cover journal costs (website, software, printing, etc.)
If you have a valuable skill or service, offer it to the CSFJ for free or at a discount
CHEO Research Institute, NSERC PromoScience, Canadian Wide Science Fair, Ingenium, STAN